Judge hears arguments in ‘John Doe’ case against Rosenberg, Hefner

  • Stanley C. Rosenberg AP Photo/Elise Amendola

  • Bryon Hefner AP Photo/Elise Amendola

For the Recorder
Published: 7/11/2018 10:34:08 PM

BOSTON — A hearing to decide whether to maintain the anonymity of the person suing former Senate president Stanley Rosenberg and his estranged husband Bryon Hefner over sexual assault allegations resumed in court Wednesday.

“We’re not seeking to close the case or restrict anything else, just his identity,” said William Gordon, a lawyer for the unnamed plaintiff. “Revealing his identity could cause irreparable harm.”

The plaintiff’s name was impounded by Suffolk Superior Court Judge Debra A. Squires-Lee, who recused herself from the case last Friday, but did not give a reason for stepping down.

The June 15 civil lawsuit alleges that Rosenberg, 68, “knew or was aware” that Hefner, 31, posed a risk to individuals in the Massachusetts Statehouse and that Rosenberg and Hefner had an agreement or understanding allowing Hefner access to those individuals, “with whom Defendant Hefner could engage in unwanted sexual touching.”

The lawsuit alleges that Hefner grabbed the unnamed plaintiff’s genitals without consent on three occasions in 2015 and 2016 and that the plaintiff suffers from ongoing emotional and physical distress from the incidents, including “depression, anxiety, muscle tension, gastrointestinal distress and impaired sleep.”

The lawsuit also alleges that Hefner “used his apparent influence” with Rosenberg to keep the plaintiff from “reporting or complaining of the unconsented to sexual touching.”

Judge Robert Tochka took over presiding Wednesday and heard arguments from the attorneys for the plaintiff, identified as “John Doe,” Rosenberg and Hefner about whether or not the plaintiff’s identity should remain anonymous.

Keep name private

Gordon and Mitchell Garabedian, the two lawyers for the plaintiff, argued that revealing his identity would victimize him again, reopen wounds and cause others to treat him differently.

Gordon referenced a psychiatric report that was submitted with the lawsuit and impounded to protect the plaintiff’s identity in which that person told a psychiatrist about his fears of embarrassment and stigma should he become known publicly as a victim of sexual assault and concerns that his “PTSD and existing depression and anxiety could increase,” particularly given the death of a family member last year.

Garabedian said that the possibility of a victim of sexual assault committing suicide during court proceedings is a “very real fear we have.”

Garabedian told the judge that he would consider asking for a closed trial or other actions if need be to protect the plaintiff’s identity.

Make name public

Michael Pineault, an attorney for Rosenberg, argued that the psychiatric letter does not show “exceptional circumstances” needed to keep the plaintiff anonymous. Pineault said that there would need to be “specific, particular and factual basis” for such action.

“The public has a right to a full understanding of these judiciary proceedings, who the plaintiff is, what he stands to gain professionally and politically, as well as financially,” Pineault said. “The right to public proceedings is one of the reasons we have confidence in the fairness of the proceedings.”

Pineault said that hiding behind anonymity affects the “accountability, credibility and truthfulness” of the allegations.

Tracy Miner, an attorney for Hefner, said that there were other ways for the lawsuit to be filed to protect the plaintiff’s identity that would have also protected her client’s identity, but that by revealing the defendants’ identities and not the accuser’s, she could argue it is causing her client irreparable harm already.

Gordon said that there is no community interest in the plaintiff’s identity and that the only community interest is in former senator Rosenberg’s inclusion in the case.

Rosenberg resigned from the Legislature in May after a four-month-long ethics investigation into whether he broke any Senate rules found that he had failed to protect the Senate from Hefner’s “disruptive, volatile and abusive” behavior.

Neither Rosenberg or Hefner attended the hearing. Rosenberg declined to comment Wednesday.

Hefner pleaded not guilty to felony charges of sexual assault, criminal lewdness, and distributing nude photographs without consent in April.

Judge Tochka said he would take the attorneys’ arguments under advisement and issue a decision.

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